Let's celebrate Lethbridge's Paralympians, coaches, and officials who have left their footprints on the Paralympic legacy.
The Paralympic Games were founded by Sir Ludwig Guttmann, a Jewish doctor who fled Nazi Germany to England, where he opened a spinal injuries centre at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital. The first edition of the Stoke Mandeville Games was held on 29 July 1948, with 16 injured servicemen and women competing in archery. The Stoke Mandeville Games later became the Paralympic Games, which first took place in Rome, Italy, in 1960 featuring 400 athletes from 23 countries.
Zack McAllister (London 2012, Rio 2016) Swimming
McAllister was the first University of Lethbridge swimmer to make an Olympic or Paralympic team in the school’s 75-year history. McAllister’s impairment is a condition by which he had bone tumours, thereby restricting growth and range of motion in both arms and legs. At his first Paralympic Games in 2012, he competed in four events. Highlights were a sixth in the 400 and 10th in the 100- m freestyle, setting Canadian and Pan Am records in both races. At the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, McAllister made the finals in both the 100-m and 50-m freestyle. He finished 7th and 8th in those events. He also contributed to a Canadian record in the 4x100m medley relay team event, which finished 7th. Zach was recognized as the Lethbridge Sport Council Achievement Awards 2016 Athlete with a Disability.
Ron Van Elswyk (New York City 1984) Athletics - Marathon
Van Elswyk competed in the Men’s Marathon 3 at the 1984 Summer Paralympics. He is also a member of the Lethbridge Wheelchair Basketball Steamers. Van Elswyk farms near Del Bonita.
Ross Sampson (New York City 1984) Athletics - Marathon
Sampson won bronze in the Men’s Marathon 3 at the 1984 Summer Paralympics in a time of 2:04:42. Sampson trained with Rick Hansen. Sampson lived in Lethbridge until his retirement in 2015 from Pratt and Whitney when he retired back to Nova Scotia.
Payden Vair (former: Olsen) (Tokyo 2020) Seated Volleyball
Payden has been a member of the Seated Volleyball team since 2019. She made her debut at the 2019 Parapan Am Games in Lima where the team won bronze. In February 2020 she helped Canada secure a spot for the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo by winning gold at the World ParaVolley final Paralympic qualification tournament in Halifax. In her grade 12 year, while playing soccer for Cardston High School, in Cardston, AB, she was recruited by Lethbridge College to play for the Kodiaks women’s soccer team. The summer going into her second year of university and playing soccer for the Kodiaks, Payden had her legs run over in a lawnmower accident while cutting the grass at her family home in Cardston.